Career Advice | “I think a lot about how to help make the world a kinder and more just place. At the same time, I have a fairly mundane job in a bank. What can I do to have a greater impact?”
Q: I think a lot about how to help make the world a kinder and more just place. At the same time, I have a fairly mundane job in a bank. What can I do to have a greater impact?
A: You have many opportunities, large and small; the key is in paying attention so you can act on them.
Think about all the ways to show kindness. In many cases, small gestures have major impact. A friendly smile or pleasant comment to a stranger can turn their day around.
How about showing more small kindnesses to people closer to you? Sometimes it seems a little harder with people you know, co-workers and family alike, because they can also be the ones who can get under your skin. Make a habit of acknowledgments, and of finding ways to help when needed. These steps will have a ripple effect.
Make an unexpected phone call to a friend. Send a card saying hello. If you know someone is having a hard time, make time to check in. Support a cause that’s important to someone. In short, treat other people like they matter.
When thinking about promoting a more-just world, focus your efforts so that you don’t spread yourself too thin. If your heart is in environmental concerns, LGBT rights, children’s needs, political action, or another area, make that your priority. Set aside the idea of “should” as you choose.
Take control over how you engage. Don’t volunteer to do tasks you don’t like. You can always find ways to contribute that you’ll enjoy. If you’re a good project organizer, help think through good processes. If you like attention, step up for a more public role. If you just have a little time and don’t want a lot of added responsibility, calibrate your commitment accordingly. All are valuable and all are needed.
Switching gears, consider ways that you will keep yourself recharged.
Many of us who are trying to make a difference burn ourselves out. You won’t be able to give unless you’re replenished. It’s especially easy to get demoralized if you see many needs that you just can’t help with.
Realistically, your ability to contribute will be limited by time and money, but you can still make a difference if you maintain your energy so your commitment can endure.
Let others inspire you, noticing the good that others are doing.
For example, a friend of mine is going on a Habitat for Humanity trip, which motivates me to find ways to help that are feasible for me right now. However, avoid the trap of beating yourself up for not doing enough — that’s the dark side of noticing others’ actions.
For all these possible actions, the greatest benefit is rooted in your intention. Cultivate the spirit of kindness and justice, reminding yourself each day to infuse these values into your most minor interactions. This will be healing to your spirit and make the steps you take second nature.
Submit questions to Liz Reyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.